Nearly 30,000 Durham students start school

Aug. 25, 2014 @ 04:30 PM

If 6-year-old Aiden White, a first-grader a Parkwood Elementary School, was trying to impress his teacher on the first day of school, then he accomplished his mission.
White, who is in Karen O’Connor’s class, spelled his name loud and clear for a reporter, showing his new teacher that he knows his alphabet and how to spell his name.
“Well, I know you’re ready,” O’Connor said before she was pulled away by parents and students in need of her attention on the first day of school.
White, one of the nearly 30,000 Durham Public Schools’ students who attend school on a traditional school calendar, said he is excited about returning to school.
The students who started school Monday joined nearly 4,000 in year-round and some enrolled in specialty programs who have already started school.
“I’ve been out of school for a long time,” said White, who dashed across the room before he could be asked a follow-up question.
White’s eagerness to return to school was only exceeded by that of Azaria Woody, a third-grader assigned to Evan Sharpless’ class.
Woody already has her sights set on the end-of-grade test, which she will begin taking this year as a third-grader.
“I would love to take it,” Woody said. “I think I will do a great job.”
Woody said she spent the summer at camp and is excited about the start of a new school year.
“You can learn,” Woody said. “You can read and you can learn a lot.”
Seven-year-old Nia Jalloh, who is having a birthday soon, could hardly wait to get to class.
She had to be coaxed by stepfather Robert Hunter to slow down to answer questions.
“Yes,” Jalloh answered when asked if she was excited about the start of school. “My teacher seems nice. I think there’s going to be nice people in my class.”
The children returning to Parkwood weren’t the only ones excited about the start of a new school year.
Principal Michelle Bell confessed that she hardly slept a wink thinking about the first day of school for the nearly 600 students assigned to Parkwood.
“The first day is always exciting,” Bell said. “Seeing the kids, that’s the best part. You don’t see them over the summer and you miss them.”
Bell said the school’s big goal for the coming school year is to strengthen students’ math skills.
“But reading is always the big umbrella because if you can’t read you can’t do the math,” Bell said.
The Hispanic student population is a sizeable one at Parkwood, making up about 20 percent of the students attending the school.
“We’re fortunate enough to have several bilingual teachers,” Bell said. “We always have someone we can call [when we need someone to translate].”
New Superintendent Bert L’Homme spent the day touring schools.
In a statement, he said the school district is determined to prepare every student for graduation and life after school.
“Here in Durham we are uniquely blessed with a community of educators who really are dedicated to this task,” L’Homme said. “When each child learns and grows, and graduates prepared for college or a career, all of Durham succeeds. We’re looking forward to a terrific 2014-15 school year.”